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Three French Total refineries extend strike action: union

View of French oil giant Total headquarters in the financial district of la Defense near Paris March 8, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
View of French oil giant Total headquarters in the financial district of la Defense near Paris March 8, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - A strike at three of Total's five French refineries entered its 6th day on Wednesday, with a majority of their production units now closed, as unions sought concessions to end the wage dispute, CGT union officials said.

Workers were still on strike at Total's 155,000 bpd La Mede, 119,000 Feyzin and 339,000 bpd Gonfreville plants, amounting to a total capacity of 613,000 bpd.

Union officials said Total management had closed the door on further negotiations after workers at the 99,000 barrel per day Grandpuits refinery voted to end their strike on Tuesday, a day after colleagues at the 230,000 bpd Donges plant ended theirs.

Union leaders at the three plants still on strike agreed on Tuesday they would no longer contest an overall pay deal, signed on Monday by the moderate CFDT and CGC unions. But they submitted demands for staff at the individual plants.

"Total has closed its door to talks but we remain more committed than ever. Management is feeling strong because there are only 3 plants left striking," one union leader said.

"A big majority of units have closed and no fuel product is leaving the plants," another official said without elaborating.

The dispute comes as refining in Europe has been hit by lower demand due to the economic slowdown, while overcapacity in the sector has also hit the margins of refiners such as Total - Europe's largest - forcing a number of plant closures.

Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said earlier this year European refiners will eventually have to shut down more plants.

CGT members argue that with group profit reaching 10.7 billion euros ($14.7 billion) in 2012, the company can afford bigger pay rises. But its European refining margins hit a four-year low earlier this year.

A Total spokeswoman declined to comment.

(Reporting by Muriel Boselli and Michel Rose; editing by David Evans)

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